Family and Work: Woman´s Difficult Dilemma

Conference Calls for Adaptation of Work Structures

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ROME, MARCH 14, 2002 ( The real advancement of women shouldn´t require them to abandon their roles as mothers to the detriment of family life, a speaker told an international conference.

Quoting John Paul II, Father Paolo Scarafoni, rector of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, said the challenge of harmonizing family and outside employment lies in humanizing the work structures.

«The real promotion of woman calls for work to be structured in such a way that she will not have to pay for her promotion by abandoning what is most proper to her, causing damage to the family, in which as mother she has an irreplaceable role,» Father Scarafoni told the congress of experts who met March 7 to address the issue.

«Woman Between Family and Work» was the third international congress that the university institution has dedicated to reflecting on the «new feminism.»

The rector explained that this «new feminism» hopes to «take a step forward in reflecting on woman´s dignity and the values that constitute her nature.»

Quoting scientific studies, Fernando Pinto, a children´s neurologist and president of the Chilean Pediatrics Society, gave evidence of the intense relation that exists during pregnancy between a mother and her unborn child.

Pinto explained the children´s ability to learn depends to a great extent on the love relationship with their mother, especially during the first years of life.

Giving clinical examples, the neurologist demonstrated the implications of this relationship, not only for the brain´s development, but also for the child´s general health.

Lack of attention and time create problems for the mother and child, he stressed. That´s why his group has requested the Chilean government for maternal leave of at least six months for mothers with newborns.

Valentina Aprea, undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of Education, claimed women´s right «to be able to be with their own children when they are little, without being obliged because of this to lose opportunities in their work.»

Aprea recounted her experience as director of a school in a well-to-do neighborhood in the outskirts of Milan, where the homes and parks were modern and comfortable, but where the children only saw their parents at the end of the day for their «good night.»

«It is true that it is a very common situation in today´s world, but it has a very high social cost, because it penalizes the harmonious growth of the new generations,» Aprea said.

«The 20th century witnessed the great social progress of women,» she added. «Now we have a new challenge: to be able to give enough time and attention to children, without being penalized at work and in the social sphere.»

It is not only a challenge for mothers, but also for fathers. Sergio Belardinelli, professor of sociology of the Family at the University of Bologna, said that, according to statistics, Italian fathers spend an average of 15 to 16 minutes a day with their children.

«From individuals who had a clear sense of belonging to a community, there has been a move to individualization, a process of separation that has affected the family, especially the relation between parents and children,» Belardinelli stressed.

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